Feast Your Eyes On The Underwater Photographer Of The Year 2023 Winners

Majestic, tragic, and hilarious: this year's underwater photography competition has it all.


Tom Hale


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist

Photograph of a starving humpback whale caught in a rope.

Winner of the "Save Our Seas Foundation" Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year 2023. Image credit: Alvaro Herrero/UPY 2023

The winners of the Underwater Photographer of the Year 2023 have been unveiled, showcasing some of the most stunning shots of the world below the waves and its colorful inhabitants.  The competition’s top prize was swooped by Kat Zhou from the US for their stunning image, titled “Boto Encantado,” which shows a pink river dolphin poking its snout above the surface of the Amazon river. 

Set along the backdrop of dark waters and a beaming sunset, the photograph was picked as it beautifully illustrates an endangered species whose population numbers are desperately dwindling. 


“There’s a legend among locals that river dolphins, or ‘botos’, can transform into handsome men known as ‘boto encantado’ to seduce women. Though I did not witness the transformation, I was enchanted by these beautiful mammals in a different way. After seeing how botos would sometimes bring their beaks above water, I wanted a split shot at sunset. Though the water was so dark that I was shooting blind, this dolphin gave me a perfect pose and smile, ” Zhou said in a statement seen by IFLScience.

A pink dolphin sticks its nose above the river water in Amazon.

Category winner: Underwater Photographer of the Year 2023 and Up & Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year 2023. Image credit: Kat Zhou/UPY 2023

“As more people have settled the Amazon, river dolphins began living in closer proximity to human populations,” explained Zhou, “many river dolphins have been killed for use as fish bait, drowned in gill nets or poisoned by mercury pollution from mining. I fear that one-day botos will truly become no more than mythical creatures.”

Over 6,000 pictures were entered in this year’s competition by underwater photographers from 72 countries. 

Since the awards are based in the UK, they also featured a British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2023. Ollie Clarke, who was born in England but now lives in Australia, won this prize for his snap of a whale shark, the largest fish in the world, lurking amidst a shoal of smaller fish in Ningaloo, Western Australia.

Underwater photo of a whale hiding in a school of small fish.

Category Runner Up and British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2023. Image credit: Ollie Clarke/UPY 2023

Alvaro Herrero from Spain was named “Save Our Seas Foundation” Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year 2023 for his photograph of a humpback whale dying of starvation in Mexico after its tail became entangled in ropes and buoys.

“Taking this photograph was the saddest moment I've experienced in the ocean,” remarked Herrero. “The photo is a reflection of how our oceans are suffering, the product of man's selfishness and lack of responsibility. But I am, at least, happy that I could capture this moment and can now share it with the world and hopefully drive some real changes.”

A generous sample of the awarded images can be seen below and the full collection can be seen on the competition website

Tiny baby fish in a  plainfin midshipman nests.

Winner of the "Macro" category. Image credit: Shane Gross/UPY 2023

An elephant sticks its nose up at the camera in Thailand.

Winner of the "Portrait" category. Image credit: Suliman Alatiqi/UPY 2023

A school of sting ray swimming across the blue sea.

Third place in the "Wide Angle" Category. Image credit: Rafael Fernandez Caballero/UPY 2023

Two octopus mating in Bali with one in a shellfish sand.

Winner of the "Behaviour" category of two octopus mating in Bali. Image credit: Yury Ivanov/UPY 2023

An old rusted plane on the bottom of the sea floor in California.

Winner of the "wrecks" Category taken in Point Loma, California. Image credit: Brett Eldridge/UPY 2023

You can also check out the winners of last year’s competition here.


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